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Vanilla adds a touch of floral sweetness to this homemade vanilla lemonade. It’s ideal for any hot summer afternoon.
My kids, like most, are completely obsessed with lemonade. Every time we go to the grocery store and pass by a display of lemonade powder they try to get me to buy it, but instead we turn back toward the whole lemons.
I think a lot of us grew up drinking powdered lemonade, but it really is worth it to grab a bowl of lemons and make your own.
I’ve been making this lemonade since 2010 after a friend made it at a food blogger potluck. I love how the vanilla adds just a touch of caramelly, floral flavor, turning the lemonade from a sweet, puckery drink to something that feels luxurious to drink.
It’s still a cinch to make, though, which helps a lot on hot, sweaty summer days.
How many lemons do I need for lemonade?
The amount of lemons you’ll need to make lemonade depends on the size of your lemons, how juicy they are, and your method for juicing.
I don’t have an electric juicer, so I like to use a citrus reamer for juicing. This easy handheld tool is the best I’ve found for getting as much juice out as possible, because you can move it into the crevices and it works for any size of citrus.
You can also use a lemon squeezer, but you’ll be a bit limited in what size lemon will fit inside.
The more efficient the juicing tool, the more juice you’ll get out. However, some lemons are just less juicy than others. Plan for using 8 lemons, though I’ve used as few as 5.
You can also use bottled juice in a pinch.
How to make vanilla simple syrup
Lemonade has the best flavor when you use a simple syrup instead of dissolving the sugar directly in the cold lemon juice and water.
To make the syrup, combine 1 ½ cups water with 1 ½ cups granulated sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the vanilla bean either at the beginning or after the sugar has dissolved, then cover and remove from heat.
Let the syrup rest and cool before using. As it sits, the vanilla bean will infuse into the syrup. The longer you leave the vanilla bean, the more pronounced the flavor will be.
You can either discard the vanilla bean before mixing the syrup into the lemonade, or you can add the whole thing. It just depends on how much flavor you want!
The simple syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to use. I like to double the batch to keep some on hand for making cocktails or adding to iced coffee.
This is my perfect lemonade — the stuff they sell in restaurants is usually too tart for me. Feel free to adjust the sugar levels to your liking, however.
Serve up this lemonade at your next cookout alongside my cucumber tomato salad with pesto!
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 5-8 lemons, yielding 1 cup juice
- Cold water to fill 2-quart pitcher
- In a small saucepan, bring water, sugar, and vanilla bean just to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Press vanilla bean in order to let caviar escape. Cover, remove from heat, and let cool.
- Juice lemons, and pour into 2-quart pitcher. Add sugar mixture (including vanilla bean), then fill pitcher with cold water and stir to mix. Chill until ready to serve.
- If your lemonade tastes slightly bitter, add a tiny pinch of salt to bring out the other flavors.
- You can substitute 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean powder for the whole bean.
- Makes 2 quarts